California sea lions are common around the waters of south Puget Sound, but only in the winter. While you might see a few at other times during the year, congregated most often in Commencement Bay in Tacoma and Elliott Bay in Seattle, they really aren’t present in significant numbers through the rest of the year.
This year, however, we’ve had three or four large adults hanging around in the Tacoma Narrows. By “hanging out,” I mean I don’t think they leave. The eating must be good, this season’s winter salmon runs all funneled together at one of the narrowest points in the Sound, and they haven’t seen any good reason to go anywhere else. They are magnificent, 7 or 8 feet from tip to tail and solid as cement trucks.
I don’t see them so much as hear them these days. In the early morning hours when I am on the water, before the thin winter light starts to bleed through the clouds and christen another gray day in the Pacific Northwest, I hear them surfacing all around me. Sometimes close-in, loud and aggressive (those are the times I almost crap myself in mid-paddle), and sometimes quietly treading water and watching me from a distance. They have no fear of me, at all, something they seem more than happy to prove to me over and over again.
I enjoy these morning games of tag, even if they do scare me a little from time to time. I know that they won’t be here forever and when the season is gone, they will be too.